WINDHAM – Despite a 10-point performance by Mya Mannette, the Eagles found themselves far overmatched against the visiting Rams on Friday night, Feb. 10. Gorhamites Emily Esposito and Mackenzie Holmes racked up 16 and 14 respectively as their squad, No. 1 in AA South, cruised to a blistering, 57-27 W over Windham, who thus miss the postseason cut.
Gorham head coach Laughn Berthiaume remarked on the significance of the win. “You want to end the season on a positive note,” he said. “I just told them, ‘The first season is over, and we’re getting geared up for the second season.’ So we’re excited. We wanted to go into the playoffs playing well. We’ve got a big layoff here, so we have some things we can certainly work on, and we’re going to spend the next week and a half doing that.”
The Rams jumped out to a quick lead over the Eagles, going up 13-4 in the first quarter alone. Holmes tallied seven and Espo six in the stretch, while Mannette added both of her girls’ twos. Gorham then accelerated their domination in the second, outpacing Windham 20-3. Espo and Holmes continued to hash points in that time, of course, but other Rams joined the conversation as well: Kristen Curley knocked down a two and a three, Michelle Rowe a two and two frees, and Brittany Desjardin a two. Freshman standout Hannah Talon notched the Eagles’ only buckets, a deuce from the field and a loner from the line.
To Windham’s great credit, despite being down 33-7 through the break, they returned for the third quarter nevertheless determined to play their best, and it’s fair to say they successfully upped their game a notch or two – even before Berthiaume began subbing out his starters for some less-experienced girls. The Eagles more than doubled their total in the third quarter, scoring 12 on two twos each by Mannette and Alanna Joyce as well as a two and a duo of frees by Talon.
“In the first half, I didn’t think we played poorly at all,” said Windham head coach Brody Artes, asked about the ways in which his girls ramped up their play. “I think we did some really good things. We missed nine or ten buckets in the paint; you make half of those, and it’s a little bit different ballgame. So I think we converted those a little bit better in the second half.
“But I also had to stress to them at halftime that Gorham is a team that’s so defensively aggressive that you have to know what you’re doing before you catch the ball…We talked a lot about that at halftime, just having instincts, anticipation of what you’re going to do when you get the ball.”
Still, Gorham kept ahead of their hosts, putting up 13 in the third. Rowe contributed five of those, while Espo, Desjardin, Holmes and Kaylea Lundin each contributed two. Likewise, in the fourth, though Windham reeled in eight more – Mannette and Joyce each basketed two, and Meghan Hoffses added four on a pair of beautiful court-length drives – the Rams reeled in 10. Two of those belonged to Espo and two to Holmes, but fresh faces Sarah Walker, Brooke Woodbury and Courtney Brent each drained a two as well.
Artes commented on Mannette’s and Hoffses’s work in the second half. “Mya has been Mya for three years,” he said. “She’s been very consistent for us overall. And Meghan is one of the fastest kids in the league, so she provides us with that up-tempo type basketball. When she’s in the open court, there’s not too many people who can catch her. They did a good job converting, especially in that second half, their transition layups and making a couple outside shots. Those two have been kind of our engine, as far as scoring goes, along with Talon. So I wasn’t surprised that they came around in the second half, just because they’re good basketball players.”
Artes also took an moment to praise one of his workhorses: “Taylor Files did a great job defensively inside tonight. Holmes got into foul trouble early, and I think it was a lot because of Taylor’s positioning and her aggressiveness. Gorham’s such a tough defensive matchup – all five spots on the floor, just sometimes uncoverable. But I thought we did a good job trying to hold our own.”
“In the second half, we let them get to the rim a few too many times,” Berthiaume said of Windham. “They had some easier looks than we really want to give a team, but that’s something we can take a look at, focus on.”
Gorham remains undefeated on the winter. The Rams, last year’s State Champs, are on the warpath again in ‘16-’17, and have wrapped up the first seed in AA South by a huge Heal-Points margin over second-ranked South Portland (16-2). The Rams and the Riots both earn byes through the tournament prelims. The teams, perhaps destined to meet again in the Regional Final, first clashed back on Dec. 15, when Gorham emerged the victors 44-31. Gorham will face the winner of MGA (No. 4 at 7-11) and Sanford (No. 5 at 9-9) in the semis; South Portland will face the winner of Scarborough (No. 3, 15-3) and TA (No. 6, 9-9) in the same round.
Every coach wants their team to be playing their best ball as the season reaches its fever pitch, but, of course, good coaches are rarely satisfied. “I think we can play better,” Berthiaume said. “I always think we can play better. We’ve had some games that were probably better than this one. Probably our best game of the season was earlier in the year, against Scarborough. But, playoff basketball, they’re going to be fired up and ready to go.”
Windham closes their regular schedule at 5-13, good enough for seventh in AA North. Alas, only the top six squads make the bracketing, meaning the Eagles now retire to the sidelines until next year. The team says goodbye to two seniors: Mannette and Lyndsey Arsenault. Artes praised both girls as players and leaders:
“They’ve been great leaders,” he said. “They were the only two freshman on the varsity team, the year we went to the Regional Final. What I was impressed by them, as freshmen coming into that tryout session, was their overall work ethic. They’ve really pushed each other to get better, they’ve pushed their teammates to get better, and they’ve had that same mentality for four years.
“They’re going to be missed, big time. Mya provides us with strong ball-handling skills, the ability to score, some good shooting; really, that leadership we need on the court from a guard. Lyndsey is a tough kid overall, a tough defender; she’s a smart player. Those two are going to create a hole for us that we’ve got find a way to fill real quick.”
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME
Windham’s Alanna Joyce (4) and her fellow defenders interrupt a drive by Gorhamite Brittany Desjardin.
Alexis Fotter curls into the paint for Gorham.
Gorham’s Brooke Woodbury can’t quite keep Windham’s Mya Mannette from getting the ball away.
Emily Esposito splits a pair of Windham defenders – Taylor Files (left) and Hannah Talon (right) – on her way to the glass.
Windham’s Meghan Hoffses managed just four points vs. Gorham on Friday, but the pair of twos both came on fantastic full-court drives.
Gorhamite Michelle Rowe lofts up an inside attempt vs. Mikayla Baiguy, defending for Windham.